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tv   FBI Director Defends Decision to Reveal Clinton Email Probe Before Election  CSPAN  May 3, 2017 1:57pm-3:02pm EDT

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again, that from politico today. after the first round of voting in france's presidential election, emmanuel macron and marine le pen of the national front party will face each other in a runoff on sunday. and this afternoon, a debate between the two provided by english language france 24 tv. live coverage starting at 2:55 eastern here on c-span3. now, though, a chance to watch today's senate judiciary committee hearing again with fbi director james comey testifying. beginning around 10:00 eastern time today.
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>> nchi don't know whether the e is 10:30 or 10:35 but there's a
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vote scheduled on the senate floor. it's my intention to keep the meeting going during that vote and we'll take turns going. so, somebody needs to be he preswpr presiding while i go vote. i'll run over and run back and we'll do the questioning according to the fall of the gavel or early birds. so whichever rule applies. director comey, welcome. we thank the fbi for what it does to keep america safe. there's been a lot of controversy surrounding the fbi since the last time you were here in 2015. in march, you publicly acknowledged that the fbi is investigating allegations of coordination between the trump campaign and russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. under president obama's order, former dni clapper had been in charge of the intelligence community's review of that
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inferns. mr. clapper testified that president obama asked the intelligence community to compile all available information. after he left office, mr. clapper said there was no evidence of collusion whatsoever. "the new york times" reported that american officials found no proof of collusion. so where is all this speculation about collusion coming from? in january, buzzfeed published a dossier spinning wild conspiracy theories about the trump campaign. buzzfeed acknowledged that the claims were unverified and some of the details were clearly wrong. buzzfeed has since been sued for publishing them. since then, much of the dossier has been proven wrong and many of his outlandish claims have failed to gain traction. for example, no one's looking for moles or russian agents
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impei embedded in the dnc, yet some continue to quote parts of this document as if it were gospel truth and according to press reports, the fbi has relied on the document to justify its current investigation. there have been reports that the fbi agreed to pay the author of the dossier who paid his sources, who also paid their subsources. where did the money come from? and what motivated the people writing the checks? the company that oversaw the dossier's creation, fusion gsp, won't speak to that point, either. its founder, glen simpson, is refusing to cooperate with this company's -- committee's investigation and inquiry. his company is also the subject of a complaint to the justice department. that complaint alleges that
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fusion worked as an unregistered foreign agent for russian interests and with a former russian intelligence agency at the time it worked on the dossier. it was filed with the justice department in july long before the dossier came out. the man who wrote the dossier admitted in court that it has unverified claims. does that sound like a reliable basis for law enforcement or intelligence actions? unfortunately, the fbi has provided me materially inconsistent information about these issues. that is why we need to know more about it, how much the fbi relied on it. once you buy into the claim of collusion, suddenly, every interaction with a russian can be twisted to seem like confirmation of a conspiracy theory.
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now, i obviously don't know what the fbi will find. for the good of the country, i hope that the fbi gets to the truth soon, whatever that truth or that answer may be. if there are wrongdoers, they should be puni isished and the innocent should have their names cleared. and in the meantime, this committee is charged with the oversight of the fbi. and we can't wait until this is all over to ask the hard questions. otherwise, too many people will have no confidence in fbi's conclusions. the public needs to know what role the dossier has played and where it came from, and we need to know whether there was anything improper going on between the trump campaign and the russians. or are these mere allegations just a partisan smear campaign that manipulated our government
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into choosing -- chasing a conspiracy theory? now, before the election, and before we knew about this notorious dossier, you, chairman comey, publicly released his findings that secretary clinton was extremely careless in the handling of highly classified information and this recommendation has no -- and his recommendation that no one be prosecuted. according to a recent "new york times" article, he did it partly because he knew the russians had a hacked e-mail from a democrat operative that might be released before the election. that e-mail reportedly provided assurances that attorney general lynch would protect secretary clinton and make sure the fbi, quote/unquote, didn't go too
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far. despite attorney general lyn kprrks h's prior connections to the clintons and now famous private conversation with former president clinton during the investigation, she failed to recuse herself from that. the director's announcement effectively gave her cover to have it both ways. she would appear publicly uninvolved but remain and control the ultimate outcome. moreover, in its haste to end a tough politically charged investigation, the fbi failed to follow up on credible evidence of the intent to hide federal records from the congress and the public. it is a federal crime, as we know, to willfully and unlawfully conceal, remove or destroy a federal record. director comey said that, quote, the fbi also discovered several thousands work-related e-mails, end of quote, that secretary clinton did not turn over to the state department. he said the secretary clinton's
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lawyers, quote, cleaned their devices in such a way to preclude complete forensic recovery, end of quote, of additional e-mails. the justice department also entered into immunity agreements limiting the scope of the fbi investigation. some of these agreements prohibited the fbi from reviewing any e-mails on the laptops of the clinton aides that were created outside of secretary clinton's tenure at state, but of course, any e-mails related to alienating records would not have been created until after she left office during the congressional fbi reviews. and even though these records were subject to congressional subpoena and preservation records, the justice department agreed to destroy the laptops. so, a cloud of doubt hangs over the fbi objectivity. the director says that the people at the fbi don't give a rip about politics, but the director installed, as deputy
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director, a man whose wife ran for elected office and accepted almost a million dollars from governor terry mcauliffe, a longtime friend and fund-raiser of the clintons and the democratic party. andrew mccabe also reportedly met a person with governor mcauliffe's office about his wife's political plans, and he did not recuse himself from the clinton investigations or the russian matter despite the obvious appearance of conflict. the inspector general is reviewing these issues, but once again, the people deserve answers and the fbi has not provided those answers. we need the fbi to be accountable because we need the fbi to be effective. its mission is to protect us from the most dangerous threats facing our nation and as the director was last here -- since the director was last here, the drumbeat of attacks on the
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united states from those directed or inspired by isis or other radical islamic terrorists has continued. for example, in june 2016, a terrorist killed 49 and wounded another 53 in orlando. frequented by gay and lesbian community. it was a most deadly attack in the united states soil since 9/11 but afterwards in september, a terrorist stabbed ten at a mall in minneapolis and another terrorist injured 31 after he detonated bombs in nj new jersey and new york city. in november, a terrorist injured 13 after driving into students and teachers at ohio state university. our allies haven't been immune, either, as we read in the newspaper frequently. july 2016 when terrorists plowed a truck through a crowd in france killing over 80 people.
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so, we in the congress need to make sure that the fbi has the tools it needs to prevent and investigation terrorism as well as other serious violent crimes. and these tools must be -- must adapt to both evolving technology and threats while preserving our civil liberties. i hope we can also hear from the director about the fbi's use of some of these tools that may require congress' attention, and most obviously, the fisa section 702 authority is up for reauthorization at the end of the year. this authority provides the government the ability to collect the electronic communications of foreigners outside the united states with a compelled assistance of american companies. and bush and obama administrations were strongly supportive of 7022 a 2 administrations were strongly supportive of 7022 a2 and now t
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trump administration is as well. from all account, the law has proven to be highly effective in helping to protect the united states and our allies. the privacy and civil lib t terties oversight board and many other courts have found sectio . 702 constitutional and consistent with our 4th amendment, yet questions and concerns persist for many about its effects on our civil liberties specifically in the way the fbi queries data collected under section 702. in addition, the director has spoken out often about how the use of encryption by terrorists and criminals is eroding the effectiveness of one of the fbi's core investigative tools. a warrant based on probable cause. i look forward to an update from you, director comey, on going dark problem. i'm also waiting for answers from the fbi's advanced knowledge of an attempted terrorist attack 2015, garland,
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texas. fortunately, the attack was interrupted by local police officer but not before a guard was shot. after the attack, the director claimed that the fbi did not have advanced no ed knowledge o but it was recently revealed an undercover fbi agent was in close communication with one of the tackeattackers in the weeks leading up to the attack. the undercover agent was in car directly behind the shooters and they fled the scene. what the fbi knew, whether there were plans to disrupt any attack and whether it shared enough information with local law enforcement. and obviously, you expect me to always remind you about whistleblowers. finally, as you know, the fbi whistleblower protection enhancement act became law december 2016. it clarified that fbi employees are protected when they disclose wrongdoing to their supervisors. in april, we learned that the
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fbi still has not updated its policies and done much to educate employees on the new law. the inspector general gave the fbi updated training this past january. employees who know that they're protected are more likely to come forward with evidence of waste, fraud and abuse. they should not have to wait many months to be trained on such a significant change in their rights and their protections, and these are all important issues and i'll look forward to discussing them with you, director comey, the public's faith in the fbi, congress, and our democratic process has been tested lately. oversight and transparency hopefully will restore that faith. you may take as long as you want, senator. >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, as you stated, this is the committee's annual oversight hearing to conduct that oversight of the fbi. so, usually we review and ask
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questions about the fbi's work that ranges from major federal law enforcement priorities to the specific concerns of individual members of the committee. however, this hearing takes place at a unique time. last year, for the first time, the fbi and its investigation of a candidate for president became the center of the closing days of a presidential election. before voters went to the polls last november, they had been inundated with stories about the fbi's investigation of senator clinton's e-mails. the press coverage was wall to wall. every day, there was another story about secretary clinton's e-mails. every day, questions were released -- every day, questions were raised about whether classified information had been released or compromised, and
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over and over again, there was commentary from the fbi about its actions and investigation. on july 5th, 2016, 2 months before the election, director comey publicly announced that the fbi had concluded its investigation and determined that no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against secretary clinton. that should have been the end of the story, but it wasn't. 11 days before the election on october 28th, 2016, director comey then announced that the fbi was re-opening the clinton investigation because of e-mails on anthony weiner's computer. this explosive announcement, and it was, came unprompted and without knowing whether a single e-mail warranted a new
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investigation. it was, in fact, a big october surprise. but in fact, as it turned out, not one e-mail on the laptop changed the fbi's original conclusion that no prosecution was warranted and only two days before the election, the fbi sent another public letter to congress affirming its original conclusion. this was extraordinary, plain and simple. i join those who believe that the actions taken by the fbi did, in fact, have an impact on the election. what's worse is that while all of this was going on in the public spotlight, while the fbi was discussing its investigation into senator clinton's e-mail server in detail, i cannot help but note that it was noticeably
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silent about the investigation into the trump campaign and russian interference into the election. in june 2016, the press reported that russian hackers had infiltrated the computer system of the democratic national committee. in response, then-candidate trump and his campaign began goating the russian government into hacking secretary clinton. two months later, in august on twitter, roger stone declared, "trust me, it will soon be podesta's time in the barrel." he then bragged that he was in communication with wikileaks, and this was during a campaign -- the campaign in florida. he told a group of florida republicans that founder julian assange said -- that founder
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julian assange and that there would be no telling what the october surprise might be, end quote. clearly, he knew what he was talking about. two months later, on october 7th, thousands of e-mails from john podesta's account were published on wikileaks. we now know that through the fall election, the fbi was actively investigating russia's efforts to interfere with the presidential campaign and possible involvement of trump campaign officials in those efforts, yet the fbi remained silent. in fact, the fbi summarily refused to even acknowledge the existence of any investigation. it's still very unclear, and i hope, director, that you will clear this up, why the fbi's treatment of these two
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investigations was so dramatically different. with the clinton e-mail investigation, it has been said that, "exceptional circumstances," including the high interest in the matter, and the need to reassure the public, required public comment from the fbi. however, i can't imagine how an unprecedented big and bold hacking interference in our election by the russian government did not also present exceptional circumstances. as i said at the beginning, we're in a unique time. a foreign adversary had actively interfered with a presidential election. the fbi was investigating not just that interfeernts, but whether campaign officials associated with the president were connected to this interference. and the attorney general has
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recused himself from any n involvement in this investigation. at the same time, the fbi must continue to work with its state and local law enforcement partners and the intelligence community as well to investigate crime of all types. violent crime, increased narcotic trafficking, fraud, human trafficking, terrorism, child exploitation, public corruption, and yesterday this committee had a very important hearing on hate and crimes against specific religions and races which are off the charts. in order to do all of that, i firmly believe it is of the utmost importance that the american people have faith and trust in the nation's top law enforcement agency. we must be assured that all of the fbi's decisions are made in the interest of justice, not in the interest of any political
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agenda or reputation of any one agency or individual. so, mr. director, today we need to hear how the fbi will regain that faith and trust. we need straightforward answers to our questions and we want to hear how you're going to lead the fbi going forward. we never, ever want anything like this to happen again. thank you, mr. chairman. >> director comey, i'd like to swear you in at this point. do you affirm that the testimony you're about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you very much. as the old saying goes for somebody as famous as you, you don't need any introduction, so i'm going to just introduce you as director of the federal bureau of investigation, but to once again thank you for being here today and we look forward
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to your testimony in answer to our questions. you may begin. >> thank you, mr. chairman, senator feinstein, members of the committee, thank you for having this annual oversight hearing about the fbi. i know that sounds a little bit like someone saying they're looking forward to going to the dentist, but i really do mean it. i think oversight of the fbi of all parts of government, but especially the one i'm lucky enough to lead, is essential. i think it was john adams who wrote to thomas jefferson that power always thinks it has a great soul. the way you guard against that is having people ask hard questions, ask good questions and demand straightforward answers and i promise you i will do my absolute best to give you that kind of answer today. i also appreciate the conversation i know we're going to have today and over the next few months about reauthorizing section 702 of the foreign intelligence surveillance act that you mentioned, mr. chairman. this is a tool that is essential to the safety of this country. i did not say the same thing about the collection of telephone dialing information by
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the nsa. i think that's a useful tool. 702 is an essential tool and if it goes away, we will be less safe as a country, and i mean that and would be happy to talk more about that. thank you for your engaging on that so we can tell the american people why this matters so much and why we can't let it go away. as you know, the magic of the fbi, that you oversee, is its people and we talk, as we should, a lot about our counterterrorism work, about our counterintelligence work and i'm sure we'll talk about that today, but i thought i would give you some idea of the work that's being done by those people all over the country, all over the world, every day, every night, all the time. and i pulled through cases that happened and were finished in the last month just to illustrate it. the first was something i know that you followed closely, the plague of threats against jewish community centers that this country experienced in the first few months of this year. children frightened, old people frightened, terrifying threats of bombs at jewish institutions,
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especially the jewish community centers. the entire fbi surged in response to that threat working across all programs, all divisions, our technical wizards using our vital international presence and using our partnerships, especially with the israeli national police, we made that case and the israelis locked up the person behind those threats and stopped that terrifying plague against the jewish community centers. second case i wanted to mention is all of you know what a botnet is, these are the zombie armies of computers that have been taken over by criminals lashed together in order to do tremendous harm to innocent people. last month, the fbi working with our partners with the spanish national police took down a botnet called the kelio strks b botnet and locked up the russian hacker behind the botnet who made a mistake that russian criminals make of leaves russia and visiting the beautiful city of barcelona. he's now in jail in spain and the good people's computers who
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had been latchedto the zombie army have been freed from it and no longer part of a huge criminal enterprise. the last one i'll mention is this past week for the first time since congress passed the statute making it a crime in the united states to engage in female genital mutilation, to mutilate little girls, it's been a fellony in the united states since 1996, we made the first case against doctors in michigan from doing this terrifying thing to young girls all across the country with our partners in the department of homeland security. we brought a case against two doctors for doing this to children. this is among the most important work we do protecting kids especially and done by great work you don't hear about a whole lot all across the country by the dpfbi. st the on it's the honor of my life. i love this work and love this job. the people i get to work with. some of whose work i illustrated
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by pulling those three cases from last month but it goes on all the time, all around the country and we're safer for it. i love representing these people, speaking on their behalf. i look forward to your questions today. thank thayou, mr. chairman. >> thank you for your opening statement. i'm going to start out probably with a couple subjects you wish i didn't bring up and then a third one that i think everybody needs to hear your opinion on a policy issue. it is frustrating when the fbi refuses to answer this committee's questions. but leaks, relevant information to the media, in other words, they don't talk to us, but some talks to the media. director comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the trump investigation or the clinton investigation? >> never. >> question two, relatively
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related. have you ever authorized someone else at the fbi to be an anonymous source in news reports about the trump investigation or the clinton investigation? >> no. >> has any classified information relating to president trump or his association -- associates been declassified and shared with the media? >> not to my knowledge. >> you testified before the house intelligence committee that a lot of classified matters have ended up in the media recently. without getting into any particular article, i want to emphasize that, without getting into particular article, is there an investigation of any leaks of classified information relating to mr. trump or his
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associates? >> i don't want to answer that question, senator, for reasons i think you know. there have been a variety of leaks. leaks are always a problem, but especially in the last three to six months, and where there is a leak of classified information, the fbi, if it's our information, makes a referral to the department of justice or if it's agency's, they do the same and doj authorizes the opening of an investigation. i don't want to confirm in an open setting whether there are any investigations open. >> i want to challenge you on that because the government regularly acknowledges when it's investigating classified leaks. you did that in the valerie plame case. what's the difference here? >> well, the most important difference is i don't have authorization from the department to confirm any of the investigations th s authorized. it may be we can get that at some point. i'm not going to do that in an open setting without having
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talked to them. >> i can -- you can expect me to follow up on that offer. >> sure. >> there are several senior fbi officials who would have had access to the classified information that was leaked, including yourself, and the deputy director, so how can the justice department guarantee the integrity of the investigations without designating an agency other than the fbi to gather the facts and eliminate senior fbi officials as suspects? >> well, i'm not going to answer about any particular investigations, but there are -- i know of situations in the past where if you think the fbi or its leadership are suspects, you have another investigative agency support the investigation by federal prosecutors. it can be done and has been done in the fast. >> okay. moving on. to another subject. t"the new york times" recently reported the fbi found a troubling e-mail among the ones,
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the russian hack from operatives. the e-mail reportedly provided assurances that lynch would protect secretary clinton by making sure the fbi investigate, quote/unquote, didn't go too far. how and when did you first learn of this document? also who sent it and who received it? >> it's not a question i can answer in this forum, mr. chairman, because it would called for a classified response. i have briefed leadership of the intelligence committees on that particular issue, but i can't talk about it here. >> you can expect me to follow end with you on that point. >> sure. >> what steps did the fbi take to determine whether attorney general lynch had actually given assurances that the political fix was in, no matter what. did the fbi interview the person
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who wrote the e-mail? if not, why not? >> i have to give you the same answer, i can't talk about that in an unclassified setting. >> okay. then withdrew cyou can expect mw up on that. i asked the fbi to provide this e-mail to the committee before today's hearing. why haven't you done so? and will you provide it by the end of this week? >> again, to react to that, i have to give a classified answer and i can't give it sitting here. >> so that means you can't give me the e-mail? >> i'm not confirming there was an e-mail, sir. i can't -- the subject is classified and in an appropriate forum, i'd be happy to brief you on it. i can't do it in an open hearing. >> i assume that other members of the committee could have access to that briefing if they want it. i want to talk about going dark. director comey, a few years ago, you testified before the committee about going dark problem and the inability of law
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enforcement to access encrypted data despite the existence of a lawfully issued court order. you continue to raise this issue in your public speeches, most recently boston college. my question, you mentioned it again in your testimony briefly, but can you provide the committee with a more detailed update on the status of going dark problem? and how has it affected the fbi's ability to access encrypted data? has there been any progress collaborating with the technology sector to overcome any problems? at our hearing in 2015, you said you didn't think legislation was necessary at that time. is that still your view? >> thank you, mr. chairman. the shadow created by the problem we call going dark continues to fall across more and more of our work. take devices, for example. the ubiquitous default, full
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encryption on devices, is effecting now about half of our work. first six months of this fiscal year, fbi examiners were presented with over 6,000 device. 46% of those cases we could not open those devices with any technique. that means half the devices we encounter in terrorism case, counterterrorism cases, gang cases, child pornography cases cannot be open with any technique. that is a big problem. so the shadow continues to fall. i'm determined to continue to make sure the american people and congress know about it. i know this is important to the president and new attorney general. i don't know yet how the new administration intends to approach it but it's something we have to talk about because like you, i care a lot about privacy. i also care an awful lot about public safety and there continues to be a huge collision between those two things we care about. so i look forward to continuing
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that conversation, mr. chairman. >> you didn't respond to the part about do you still have the view of the legislation is not needed? >> i don't know the answer yet. i think i said, i hope i said last time we talked about this, it may require legislative solution at some point. the obama administration was not in a position where they were seeking legislation. i don't know yet how president trump intends to approach this. i know he spoke about it during the campaign. i know he cares about it but it's premature for me to say. >> senator feinstein? >> thank you. director, i have one question regarding my opening comment and i view it as a most important question and i hope you will answer it. why was it necessary to announce 11 days before a presidential election that you were opening an investigation on a new computer without any knowledge of what was in that computer? why didn't you just do the
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investigation as you would normally with no public announceme announcement? >> great question, senator. thank you. october 27th, the investigative team that had finished the investigation in july focused on secretary clinton's e-mails asked to meet with me. so i met with them that morning. late morning in my conference room. and they laid out for me what they could see from the meta data on this fellow, anthony weiner's laptop, that had been seized in an unrelated case. what they could see from the me metadata, was there were thousands of secretary clinton's e-mails on that device including what they thought might be the missing e-mails from her first three months as secretary of state. we never found any e-mails from her first three months. she was using a verizon blackberry then. that's obviously very important because if there was evidence she was acting with bad intent, that's where it would be in the first three months. >> but they weren't there. >> can i just finish my answer, senator? so they came in and said we can see thousands of e-mails from the clinton e-mail domain
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including many, many, many from the verizon clinton domain. blackberry domain. they said we think we got to get a search warrant to go get these and the department of justice agreed, we had to go get a search warrant so i agreed. i authorized them to seek a search warrant then i faced a choice. i lived my entire career by the tradition if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the run-up to the election that might have an impact, whether a dogcatcher election or president of the yooirkts bunit but i sat there that morning and could not see a door labeled no action here. i could see two doors. and they were both actions. one was labeled speak. the other was labeled conceal. because here's how i thought about it. i'm not trying to talk you into this. i want you to know my thinking. having repeatedly told this congress we are done and there's nothing there, there's no case there, there's no case there, to restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the e-mails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning, and not speak about it, would require an act of concealment in
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my view. so i stared at speak and conceal. speak could be realwould be rea. there's an election in 11 days, lordy that would be really bad. concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the fbi but well beyond. honestly, between really bad and catastrophic, i said to my team, we got to walk into the world of really bad, i've got to tell congress that we're restarting this, not in some frivolous way, in a hugely significant way. the team also told me we cannot finish this work before the election, then they worked night after night after night and they found thousands of new e-mails. they found classified informati information. on anthony weiner. somehow her e-mails are being forwarded to anthony weiner including classified information by her assistant huma abedin, so they found thousands of new e-mails then called me the saturday night before the election and said thanks to the wizardry of our technology, we've only had to personally read 6,000. we think we can finish tomorrow morning, sunday.
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i met with them. they said we found a lot of new stuff, we did not find anything that changes our view of her intent. so we're in the same place we were in july. it hasn't changed our view. i asked them lots of questions. i said, okay, if that's where you are, then i also have to tell congress that we're done. look, this is terrible. it makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election, but honestly, it wouldn't change the decision. everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to october 28th with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do. would you speak or would you conceal? i could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that even in hind sight, this has been one of the word's most painful experiences, i'd make the same decision. i would not conceal that on october 28th from the congress. i sent the letter to congress. by the way, people forget this. i didn't make a public announcement. i u sent a private letter to
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the -- >> no -- >> -- it was very important that i told them instead of concealing. reasonable people can disagree. that's the reason i made that choice and it was a hard choice. i still believe in retrospect. the right choice. as painful as this has been. i'm sorry for the long answer. >> well, let me respond on the letter, it was just a matter of minutes before the world knew about it. secondly, my understanding, and staff has just said to me that you didn't get a search warrant before making the announcement. >> i think that's right. i think i authorized and the department of justice agreed we were going to seek a search warrant. actually don't see it as a meaningful distinction. >> well, it very -- it's very hard -- it would have been -- you took an enormous gamble. the gamble was that there was something there that would invalidate her candidacy. and there wasn't. so one has to look at that action and say, did it affect
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the campaign? and i think most people who have looked at this say, yes, it did affect the campaign. why would he do it? was there any conflict among your staff, people saying do it, people saying don't do it, as has been reported? >> no, there was a great debate. i have a fabulous staff at all levels and one of my junior lawyers said should you consider that what you're about to do may help elect donald trump president? and i said thank you for raising that, not for a moment because down that path lies the death of the fbi as an independent institution in america. i can't consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in what way. we have to ask ourselves what is the right thing to do and do that thing? at the end of the day, everyone on my team agreed we have to tell congress that we're restarting this in a hugely significant way. >> well, there's a way to do
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that. i don't know whether it would work or not but certainly in a classified way, carrying out your tradition of not announce ing investigations and, you know, i look at this exactly the opposite way you do. everybody knew it would influence the investigation before. that there was a very large percentage of chance that it would. and yet that percentage of chance was taken and there was no information and the election was lost, so it seems to me that before your department does something like this, you really ought to -- because senator leahy began to talk about other investigations and i think this theory does not hold up when you look at other investigations. but let me go on to 702 because
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you began your comment saying how important it is and yes, it is important. we got a, i think, a problem, and the issue that we're going to need to address is the fbi's practice of searching 702 da 2 using u.s. person identifiers as query terms and some have called this an unconstitutional ba backdoor search, while others say that such queries are essential to assuring that potential terrorists don't slip through the cracks as they did before. so, could you give us your views on that? and how it might be handled to avoid the charge which may bring down 702? >> thank you, senator. it's a really important issue. the way 702 works is under the provision of the statute, the
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fisa court, federal judges authorize us as u.s. agencies to collect the communications of non-u.s. people that we believe to be overseas if they're using american infrastructure. the criticism the fbi has gotten and feedback we've gotten consistent since sinly since 9/ have to be in position to connect the dots. we responded to that, the great work of my predecessor, bob muller, an confederated databases so if we collect information under 702, it doesn't sit in a separate stove pi stovepipe. it sits in a single cloud-type environment so if i'm opening an investigation in the united states in a terrorism matter, intelligence matter, a criminal matter, i have a name of the suspect and their telephone number and their e-mail addresses, i search the fbi's databases. that search necessarily will also touch the information that was collected under 702. so that we don't miss a dot, but
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nobody gets access to the information that sits in the 702 database unless they've been trained correctly. if there is -- let's imagine that terrorists overseas were talking about a suspect in the united statess or someone's e-mail address in the united states was in touch with that terrorist and that information sits in the 702 database. when we open the case in the united states and put in that name and e-mail address t will touch that data and tell us there's information in the 70 2 database that's rell vachbt. he or she will be able to see that ffginformation. if they're not properly trained, they'll be alerted there is information, they get the appropriate training and appropriate oversight to be able to do it. my view is the information in the 702 database has been
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lawfully connected, carefully overseen and checked and our use of it is also appropriately and came carefully overseen and checked. >> so you're not masking the data -- unmasking the data? >> i'm not sure what that means. in this context, we combine information collected from any lawful source in a single fbi database so we don't miss a dot when we're conducting investigations in the united states. what we make sure, though, is nobody gets to see fisa information of any kind unless they've had the appropriate training and have the appropriate oversight. >> my time is up. thank you. senator hatch? >> thank you, senator. director comey, in january, i introduced the s-139, the rapid dna act. its bipartisan co-sponsors include feinstein, flake, ko klobuchar, on this committee,
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me, maybe more. i want th this is the same bill the senate unanimously passed last year. this technology allows developing a dna profile and performing database comparisons in less than two hours. following standards and procedures allowed bu the fbi, it would allow law enforcement to solve crimes and innocent advocates to exonerate the wrongfully accused. you came before this committee in december 2015 and asked you then about this legislation. you said it would, quote, help us change the world in a very, very exciting way, unquote. is that still your view of the value of this legislation? do you believe that congress should enact it on its oecwn without getting tangled up in other criminal justice reform issues? >> i agree very much, senator hatch. the rapid dna will -- so if a police officer somewhere in the united states has in his or her custody someone who is a rapist, before letting them go on some
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lesser offense, they'll be able to quickly check dna database and get a hit, that will save lives, protect all kinds of people from pain and i thnk it's a great thing. >> thank you. your prepared statement touches on what the fbi is doing it protect children from predators. fe personnel and youth-serving organizations, employees, coaches and volunteer, often work with unsupervised -- with youth unsupervised. that magnifies the need for thorough evaluating and vetting at the time they joined such organizations. along with senators franken and klobuchar, i introduced the child protection improvement act which gives youth-serving organizations greater access to the nationwide fbi fingerprint background check system. now, do you believe that providing organizations like the ymca and the girl scouts of america greater access to fbi fingerprint background checks is an important step in keeping
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child predators and violent criminals away from our children? >> i do, senator. i don't know enough about the legislation to react, but i think the more information you can put in the hands of the people who are vetting, people who are going to be near children, the better. we have an exciting new feature of the fbi's fingerprint system that once you check someone's identification, check them to see if they have no record, if they later develop one, you can be alerted to it if it happens thereafter which i think makes a big difference. >> thank you. you've spoken at length about the so-called going dark program. strong encryption technology hinders the ability of law enforcement to access communication and other personal data on smartphones and similar devices. your prepared testimony for today's hearing addresses ths issue as well. i expressed significant concern about proposals that would require device or software manufacturers to build a back door into is their programming to allow law enforcement tocryp
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course of investigations. i remain convinced such back doors can be created without seriously compromising the -- the security of encrypted devices. i believe this is an issue where law enforcement and stakeholders need to work together to find solutions rather than coming to congress with one-size-fits-all legislative fixes. what are you doing to engage with stakeholders on this issue and what kind of progress are you making, in you could tell us? >> thank you, senator. i think there's good news on that front. we've had very good owe open an productive conversations. we all love privacy, all care about public safety. none of it, at least people that i hang around with, none of us want back doors. we don't wan access to devices
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built in in some way. what we want to work with manufacturers on is figure out how can we accommodate both interests in a sensible way, how can we optimize the privacy, security features of their devices and allow court orders to be complied with? we're having some good conversations. i don't know where they're going to end up, frankly. i could imagine a world that ends up with legislation saying if you're going to make devices in the united states, figure out how to comply with court orders. maybe we don't go there. i think we're having productive conversations right now. >> section 702 is up for reauthorization this year. we now have almost a decade of experience using this statute, so we have much more to go on than simply speculation or theory. now, the intelligence value of section 702 is well documented and it has never been intentionally misused or abused. every federal court including the fisa court that has addressed the issue concluded that section 702 is lawful.
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administrations of both parties have strongly supported it. describe for us the targeting and minimization procedures section 702 requires and how each agencagency's how each agency is subject to oversight by the executive branch. >> thank you, senator. as i said in my opening, 702 is a critical tool to protect this country. the way it works is we are allowed to conduct surveillance, again under the supervision of the foreign intelligence surveillance court, on non-u.s. persons who are outside the united states, if they're using american infrastructure. the e-mail system in the united states, a phone system in the united states. so it doesn't involve u.s. persons and it doesn't involve activity in the united states. and then each agency, as you said, has detailed procedures for how we will handle this information that are approved by the fisa court and become court orders that govern us. not only are we overseen by the fisa court, we're overnight seen by our inspectors general and by congress checking on our work. you're exactly correct, there
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have been no abuses. every court that looked at this says this is appropriate under the fourth amendment, this is appropriate under the statute. it was an act passed by a democratically controlled congress for a republican president, then renewed by a republican congress for a democratic president. we need this to protect the country. this should be an easy conversation to have but often people get confused about the details and get it mixed up with other things so it's my job to make sure it's explained correctly. >> thank you. senator leahy? >> thank you. welcome, director comey. you mentioned you like these annual meetings. of course we didn't have an annual meeting last year. i think last year was the first time in 15 years that the fbi did not testify before this committee.
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there's been a lot that's happened in the last year and a half, as was noted. senator feinstein noted that americans across the country have been confused and disappointed about your judgment in handling the investigation into secretary clinton's e-mails. on a number of occasions you told us you would commented extensively on that investigation. you even released internal fbi memos and interview notes. i may have missed this, but my 42 years here, i've never seen anything like that. but you said absolutely nothing regarding the investigation into the trump campaign's connections to russia's illegal efforts to help elect donald trump. was it appropriate for you to comment on one investigation repeatedly and not say anything about the other?
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>> i think so. can i explain, senator? >> i only have so much time. >> i'll be quick. i think i treated both investigations consistently under the same principles. people forget, we would not confirm the existence of the hillary clinton e-mail investigation until three months after it began, even though it began with a public referral and the candidate herself talked about it. in october of 2015, we confirmed it existed and then said not another word, not a peep about it -- >> until the most critical time possible, a couple of weeks before the election. and i think there are other things involved in that election, i'll grant that. but there is no question that that had a great effect. historians can debate what kind of an effect it was. but you did do it.
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in october, the fbi was investigating the trump campaign's connection to russia. you sent a letter informing the senate and house that you were reviewing additional e-mails that could be relevant to this. but both investigations were open, but you still only commented on one. >> i commented, as i explained earlier, on october 28th in a letter that i sent to the chair and rankings of the oversight committees that we were taking additional steps in the clinton e-mail investigation because i had testified under oath repeatedly that we were done, that we were finished there. with respect to the russian investigation, we treated it like we did with the clinton investigation. we didn't say a word about it until months into it. the only thing we've confirmed so far about this is the same thing with the clinton investigation, that we were investigating. i would expect we're not going to say another peep about it until we're done. i don't know what we'll say when we're done but that's the way we handled the clinton investigation as well. >> let me ask you this. during your investigation into hillary clinton's e-mails, a
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number of surrogates like rudy guiliani claimed to have a pipeline to the fbi. he boasted that, and i quote, numerous agents talk to him all the time, close quote, regarding the investigation. he even insinuated he had advance warning about the e-mails described in your october letter. former fbi agent jim cowstrop made similar claims. either they're lying or there's a serious problem within the bureau. anybody in the fbi during this 2016 campaign have contact with rudy guiliani about the clinton investigation? >> i don't know yet. but if i find out that people were leaking investigation about our investigations, whether to reporters or private parties, there will be severe consequences. >> did you know of anything from
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jim calstrum? >> same answer. i don't know yet. >> do you know anything about other former agents? >> i don't know yet. but it's a matter i am very, very interested in. >> you are looking into it? >> correct. >> once you have found that answer, will you provide it to us? >> i'll provide it to the committee in some form, i don't know about publicly, but i'll find some way to let you know. >> okay. there are a reports that a number of senior officials in the trump campaign, administration, are connected to the russian investigation. in fact the attorney general was forced to recuse himself. now, many members of this committee have urged the deputy attorney general, and he has that authority, to appoint a special counsel to protect the independence of the investigation. i recall, i was here in december 2003, shortly after you were confirmed as deputy attorney general, then attorney general ashcroft recused himself from
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the investigation into the valerie plame leak. you immediately appointed special counsel, i believe you appointed patrick fitzgerald. what led you to that decision? >> in that particular investigation, my judgment was that the appearance of fairness and independence required that it be removed from the political chain of command within the department of justice because, as you'll recall, it seems like a lifetime ago, but that involved the conduct of people who were senior level people in the white house. and my judgment was that even i, as an independent minded person, was a political appointee. so i ought to give it to a career person like pat fitzgerald. >> what about the situation now? we have a deputy attorney general. i voted for his confirmation. but shouldn't he be not the one to be investigating campaign contacts when his boss, the attorney general, was a central
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figure in that campaign? >> that's a judgment he'll have to make. he is, as i hoped i was as deputy attorney general, a very independent-minded, career-oriented person. but it would be premature for me to comment on that. >> in the past week president trump said again hacking of the dnc and other efforts to influence the election could have been china, could have been a lot of different groups. is that contrary to what the intelligence community has said? >> the intelligence community with high confidence concluded it was russia. in many circumstances it's hard to do attribution of a hack, but sometimes the intelligence is there. we have high confidence that the north koreans hacked sony. we have high confidence that the russians did the hacking of the dnc and the other organizations. >> i have a lot of other questions which i'll submit. before it sounds totally negative, i wanted to praise the response of the fbi in south
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burlington, vermont. we had anonymous e-mails coming in threatening serious acts against students in a high school, escalating cyber threats, including detailed death threats, multiple lockdowns. the fbi worked closely with the champlain college's leahy building. it was a textbook collaboration between state, local, and federal authorities. and i want to thank all those. it turned out to be a very disturbed young man who was doing it. but you only have to turn on the tv and see what happens in different parts of country. >> thank you, senator graham will be next. we'll go to senator cornyn. >> good morning, director comey.
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i'm disappointed to see that former secretary of state hillary clinton was in the news yesterday, essentially blaming you and blaming everything other than herself for her loss on november the 8th. i find it ironic because you're not the one who made the decision to handle classified information on a private e-mail server. you're not the one who decided to have a private meeting with secretary clinton's husband in the middle of the justice department's ongoing investigation into secretary clinton's server. i used the word "investigation" here because according to a recent piece in "the new york times" you were forbidden from using the word "investigation" and instead told to refer to the investigation, which it was, as a matter. it was former attorney general loretta lynch who up until the meeting with president clinton was the person responsible for making the decision whether to convene a grand jury involving
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the allegations against secretary clinton. it was former attorney general loretta lynch who apparently forbade you from using the word "investigation." indeed, if the "new york times" story is true, a democratic operative expressed confidence -- >> watch the rest of this senate judiciary hearing on c-span.org. we leave it now to bring you live coverage of a french presidential debate against emmanuel macron and marine le pen, live coverage provided by france 24. >> translator: including a sign language translation. a random selection has given the first word to marine le pen. before we move to what we have to say, after months of campaigning, with only four days

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